Not fun being a rural Democrat these days

The writer says her small group's attempt to spread DFL love has been thrwarted by Trumpian hostility. Flags shown at a Trump rally in Macon, Ga. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images.

Have you been harassed because of your political beliefs? Tell us about it: [email protected].

For the past four months, the Lyon County chapter of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has been hosting weekly pop-up offices in various cities and towns around Lyon County. At each pop-up event, we erect a tent and staff it for several hours in order to distribute campaign signs, meet voters and answer questions.

Lyon County is located in the southwest corner of the state, closer to the South Dakota border than to the Twin Cities. It is sparsely populated, agricultural and rural. It is Trump Country.

At these pop-ups, we do not yell anything, protest or impede traffic. We simply sit under a tent on someone’s front lawn, being Democrats. And for this we are repeatedly harassed, threatened and insulted by Trump supporters. Here is a small sampling of things that actually happened to us:

Three times, the act of “rolling coal” was directed at us from passing pickups, leaving us in a cloud of toxic exhaust fumes.

A young man pointed his fingers at us like a machine gun, and made high-pitch machine-gun shooting noises at us.

On another occasion, a crude epithet directed at gay people was yelled at us from a passing car filled with young, white men. They yelled it again when the car drove by a second time, in case we hadn’t heard it on the first pass.

A man started humping his motorcycle as he drove by, in a crude and disgusting sexual gesture.

Young, white men particularly like to repeatedly drive by in their pickup trucks with Trump flags saying “Keep America Great” or “No More (expletive)” attached to the back. Sometimes these Trump flags are accompanied by American flags, but confederate flags can also be spotted alongside the Trump flags. (Bizarre, given Minnsota’s central place in the Union’s effort to defeat the slavery-defending rebs.) 

Children have yelled “Boo-oo-ooo!” at us, and teenage girls screamed “Vote Trump!” as they drove by. Middle-aged men — can you imagine? — have given us the middle finger and yelled expletives out their truck windows.

Once, a man yelled, “He’s a (expletive) pedophile!” echoing QAnon nonsense about Joe Biden. 

I’ve lost count of the times people yelled “(Expletive) Biden!” If I had a dollar for every time an obscenity was hurled at us or we were flashed the middle finger, I’d be a rich woman.

The Lyon County DFL also walked as a unit through Southwest Minnesota State University’s Homecoming Parade in Marshall. My seven-year-old son walked with us, carrying a campaign sign for Sen. Tina Smith. As he walked past a family, my son heard a young girl ask her mother, “Who’s Tina Smith?” Her mother answered: “She kills babies.”

There is a direct link between this crude, disgusting and hurtful behavior and the current occupant of the White House. President Donald Trump has normalized — even endorsed — such appalling behavior by not only displaying it himself, but by encouraging it in his followers. This is a man who has mocked disabled people, called women “nasty,” and veterans “suckers” and “losers.” He uses expletives at his rallies, denigrates his opponents with insulting nicknames and makes sexual references during televised debates. 

Is it any wonder that his supporters now follow their leader in treating people in this same manner?

It is difficult being a Democrat in Trump Country. Trump has unleashed a toxic masculinity and atmosphere of hatred that overcomes even “Minnesota nice” and small-town camaraderie. It is ripping apart the fabric of our communities — and our nation.

Not only is democracy on the ballot this year, but common decency and civility are as well.